Airlines flight attendants recently lost the lawsuit they filed in 2013 against corporate
apparel company Twin Hill.
plaintiffs had alleged their new uniforms caused multiple medical
problems, including contact dermatitis, hives, headaches and breathing
problems. A total of 164 Alaska Airlines flight attendants had joined the suit
by the time it went to trial.
Hill won a complete defense verdict.
“We were able to demonstrate to the court,
through rigorous testing supported by expert testimony, that our uniforms are
safe and could not have caused the injuries these attendants claimed,” said
Christopher Collopy, vice president of Twin Hill, in a company statement.
addition to expert testimony, the court cited in its decision a report by the
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NIOSH), part of the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services. NIOSH completed an in-depth cluster
investigation of the uniforms, taking into account the number of employees with
symptoms compared to industry standards, whether one item of the uniform or one
fabric used appeared to cause symptoms and whether any specific agent is known to
cause or suspected of causing the symptoms reported.
agent-specific information, NIOSH referred back to testing conducted after
flight attendants initially filed complaints about the uniforms. Multiple
fabric pieces were tested in 2011. Although the uniforms were found to contain
potential skin irritants, the NIOSH report concluded that the symptoms in the
complaint “are common among flight attendants and the general population.”
also observed that even though the same uniforms were worn by customer service
agents, few of those employees reported symptoms. Furthermore, a study of the
distribution of symptoms failed to reveal a connection between the locations of
skin irritations and contact with a specific fabric in the uniforms.
uniforms are rolled out, especially when dealing with those with very large
populations, a few complaints are to be expected,” Diego Lauro, Twin Hill’s
director of public relations, told the Southeast Texas Record. “Of
the full number of those who received uniforms, it was only a small percentage
of flight attendants who joined in a suit.”
the court issued a decision, but before its final judgment, 156 of the 164
flight attendants in the suit voluntarily dismissed their claims.
joined the suit and why they voluntarily dismissed their claims would be nothing
more than speculation on our part,” Lauro said.
NIOSH report, however, offered other possible causes of symptoms: the cabin
environment, contaminants in the air inside the cabin, plus physical stress, such as fatigue and cramped spaces. In addition, perceptions
of exposure to hazardous chemicals and heightened awareness of a potential
problem can make symptoms noticeable regardless of whether they are related to
an actual health hazard.
“Care must be taken when attributing common symptoms
to particular exposures, because the association is as likely to be
coincidental as to be causal,” according to the report.